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Zhang swims without high-tech suit in Hong Kong

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With new rules taking effect Jan. 1 that ban full-body high-performance suits, many swimmers are deploying them for one last time at the East Asian Games.

Except 800-meter freestyle world champion Zhang Lin.

Competing in the 200-meter freestyle, the 22-year-old Chinese swimmer wore a suit that only extended from his waist to his knees. He was the only competitor in his race to wear an outfit that will still be sanctioned under the new rules.

Zhang finished third, losing to two Japanese swimmers who wore high-tech suits, but said after the race he wanted to start adjusting to his new suit.

"I think it will be good for me to get used to it ahead of time," he said.

Zhang refused to blame his loss on the swimsuit, saying he was tired after a busy season.

"I had too many races this year, so it's a little difficult for me to swim a good result right now. I will keep working hard next year," he said.

Zhang finished in 1 minute, 49.59 seconds, more than three seconds behind the winner, Japan's Yoshihiro Okumura, who posted a time of 1:46.37.

Zhang's teammate, women's 200-meter butterfly Olympic champion Liu Zige, said Sunday she was confident she could keep breaking world records without the high-performance suits.

But Zhang wasn't so sure.

"It's hard to say ... The short swimsuits will make higher demands of our training. I hope I will train better in the future," he said.

"It will be a test of our training, our personal ability," said another top Chinese swimmer, Gao Chang, bronze medalist at the world championships in Rome in July in the 50-meter backstroke.

Despite the popularity of high-speed suits, no world records have been broken so far in Hong Kong.

With Chinese and Japanese swimmers a class above fellow competitors from Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, the top athletes have not had to push hard to win.

The use of polyurethane and neoprene suits, which cut down on fatigue and gave swimmers more buoyancy and speed, led to a significant rewriting of the record books. At this summer's world championships in Rome, 43 world records were set.